Further Changes to the John Lewis VRA

Joe Manchin made news yesterday by endorsing H.R. 4 (which would revive Section 5 of the VRA) over H.R. 1 and by recommending nationwide preclearance, applicable to all fifty states. Nationwide preclearance would solve one of the Shelby County Court’s two problems with Section 5: that it differentiated among states, subjecting some but not others to preclearance (and based on decades-old data, to boot). Nationwide preclearance wouldn’t differentiate among states at all. So there’s no way it could violate states’ supposed right to be treated the same as all other states.

However, nationwide preclearance wouldn’t address the Shelby County Court’s other concern: that preclearance itself may no longer be an available remedy under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments because modern voting conditions supposedly aren’t bad enough anywhere to justify extraordinary federal intervention. As the Court put it, the claim that “the preclearance requirement, even without regard to its disparate coverage, is now unconstitutional . . . . ha[s] a good deal of force.”

There’s another revision to H.R. 4, though, that would solve this problem, too: applying the law to federal elections only. If the law were restricted to federal elections, then Congress could pass it under the Elections Clause of Article I and the Electors Clause of Article II. Crucially, these provisions aren’t limited by the congruence-and-proportionality standard for exercises of Congress’s Fourteenth Amendment enforcement power, and they’re also not limited by Shelby County’s various glosses on Congress’s Fifteenth Amendment enforcement power. Under the Elections Clause, in particular, Congress has essentially plenary authority over congressional elections. It could write a comprehensive code for congressional elections, if it wanted. This greater power certainly includes the lesser power of subjecting all state regulations of congressional elections to preclearance.

This package of nationwide preclearance for federal electoral regulations only would be very effective at stopping voter suppression. Most voting restrictions disproportionately burden minority citizens. Under well-established precedent, that disparate racial impact would lead to preclearance being denied to these measures. The limits on absentee voting, drop boxes, polling place hours, and so on recently adopted by Florida, Georgia, and other states—they’d all be blocked because they’d worsen the electoral position of minority citizens.

But nationwide preclearance for federal electoral regulations only would be mostly impotent against partisan gerrymandering. The reason is that aggressive partisan gerrymanders are perfectly compatible with maintaining (or even increasing) the numbers of minority ability districts. Republican mapmakers, in particular, are usually happy to preserve (or even augment) these districts because they inefficiently pack Democratic voters, leaving fewer Democrats for plans’ remaining districts. As an illustration, consider the 2010s experiences of the southern states formerly covered by Section 5. All of their congressional maps were drawn by Republicans and biased in a Republican direction (egregiously so in AL, GA, NC, and SC). With the exception of Texas, all of their maps were also precleared. Section 5, that is, did next to nothing in the 2010s to thwart partisan gerrymandering.

Accordingly, if H.R. 4 is to be the vehicle for electoral reform instead of H.R. 1 (per Manchin’s suggestion), it needs to be supplemented by provisions that would stop partisan gerrymandering. The most logical candidates are H.R. 1’s own anti-gerrymandering sections, which would (1) require states to use independent redistricting commissions for their congressional plans, and (2) prohibit maps that have the intent or effect of unduly favoring a party. I’d prefer H.R. 1 (in its entirety) and H.R. 4 (as last passed by the House) to this combination of a revised H.R. 4 supplemented by H.R. 1’s anti-gerrymandering sections. But if H.R. 1 ultimately has no path forward (because of Manchin), this combination would still be a momentous accomplishment.

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“Donors gave millions to Garcetti nonprofit but kept their identities secret, Times analysis finds”

LAT:

After Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti took office in 2013, he helped launch a charity fund that allows donors to support diverse programs from environmental initiatives to youth employment.

Since then, Garcetti has reported raising more than $60 million from corporations, foundations, and individuals for the nonprofit Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles. A Times data analysis found that at least $3.8 million of that total came from contributors who gave through accounts that mask their identity, a practice that alarms ethics watchdogs who say such donations skirt a state law intended to make those donors’ names public.

These contributors used donor-advised funds, a type of charitable giving account offered by some nonprofit foundations and for-profit investment firms that provide a generous tax deduction and, when requested, anonymity.

Donor-advised funds have existed for decades and become popular in recent years among individuals and companies wanting to make charitable gifts. Their use for donations sought by elected officials in California was first reported last month by The Times.

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Todd Rokita Goes After Kristen Clarke

Bloomberg Law:

President Joe Biden’s nominee to head the Justice Department’s civil rights division, already facing a tough confirmation fight, has received a civil investigative demand from Indiana’s Republican attorney general as part of his probe into Big Tech content moderation practices.

Kristen Clarke, whose nomination deadlocked in the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday, received the request from Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, who also sent demands to NAACP President Derrick Johnson, Rev. Al Sharpton, and several other activists.

Rokita is investigating whether Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Apple Inc.or Amazon.com Inc.‘s content management practices violate state consumer protection laws by “censoring” conservative content online. The activists drew Rokita’s attention following a media reportabout a meeting Rokita’s office believes they attended with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other tech company executives.

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“Using Computer Simulations to Measure the Effect of Gerrymandering on Electoral Competition in the U.S. Congress”

I hadn’t been aware of this 2019 paper in Legislative Studies Quarterly by David Cotrell. Here’s the abstract. The piece itself is behind a paywall.

Recent research has leveraged computer simulations to identify the effect of gerrymandering on partisan bias in U.S. legislatures. As a result of this method, researchers are able to distinguish between the intentional partisan bias caused by gerrymandering and the natural partisan bias that stems from the geographic sorting of partisan voters. However, this research has yet to explore the effect of gerrymandering on other biases like reduced electoral competition and incumbency protection. Using a computer algorithm to design a set of districts without political intent, I measure the extent to which the current districts have been gerrymandered to produce safer seats in Congress. I find that gerrymandering only has a minor effect on the average district, but does produce a number of safe seats for both Democrats and Republicans. Moreover, these safe seats tend to be located in states where a single party controls the districting process.

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“Cognition and Political Ideology in Aging”

Mark Fisher, Davin Phoenix, Sierra Powell, Myrna Mousa, Shawn Rosenberg, Dana Greenia, Maria M. Corrada, Claudia Kawas, and Annlia Paganini‐Hill new article. From the abstract:

In this population of older persons, political identification on the liberal‐conservative spectrum was resilient despite cognitive decline, but its meaning and function were changed. For the cognitively impaired it remained a self‐defining label, but no longer operated as a higher order framework for orienting specific policy preferences. There appeared to be loss of coherence between the political orientation and political policy choices of cognitively impaired individuals. Given the high level of political engagement of these individuals, these results have substantial public policy implications.

This is a topic that could use much more research.

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“Leaked Video: Dark Money Group Brags About Writing GOP Voter Suppression Bills Across the Country”

Mother Jones: (leaked video)

In a private meeting last month with big-money donors, the head of a top conservative group boasted that her outfit had crafted the new voter suppression law in Georgia and was doing the same with similar bills for Republican state legislators across the country. “In some cases, we actually draft them for them,” she said, “or we have a sentinel on our behalf give them the model legislation so it has that grassroots, from-the-bottom-up type of vibe.”

The Georgia law had “eight key provisions that Heritage recommended,” Jessica Anderson, the executive director of Heritage Action for America, a sister organization of the Heritage Foundation, told the foundation’s donors at an April 22 gathering in Tucson, in a recording obtained by the watchdog group Documented and shared with Mother Jones. Those included policies severely restricting mail ballot drop boxes, preventing election officials from sending absentee ballot request forms to voters, making it easier for partisan workers to monitor the polls, preventing the collection of mail ballots, and restricting the ability of counties to accept donations from nonprofit groups seeking to aid in election administration.

All of these recommendations came straight from Heritage’s list of “best practices” drafted in February. With Heritage’s help, Anderson said, Georgia became “the example for the rest of the country.”…

Heritage Foundation fellow Hans von Spakovsky, a former George W. Bush administration official who for two decades has been the driving force behind policies that restrict access to the ballot, spoke alongside Anderson at the donor summit.

“Hans is briefing governors, secretaries of state, state attorney generals, state elected officials,” Anderson said. “Just what three weeks ago, we had a huge call with secretaries of state, right?”

“We’ve now for several years been having a private briefing of the best conservative secretaries of state in the country that has so annoyed the left that they have been doing everything they can to try to find out what happens at that meeting,” von Spakovsky replied.

“So far unsuccessfully,” Anderson said. “No leaks.”…

Other measures Anderson said Heritage drafted included “three provisions” in legislation adopted by Iowa Republicans a few weeks before Georgia’s law, including one placing voters on inactive status if they sit out one election cycle and removing them from the rolls if they fail to take action, a system that could lead hundreds of thousands of voters to be purged. 

“Iowa is the first state that we got to work in, and we did it quickly and we did it quietly,” Anderson said. “We worked quietly with the Iowa state legislature. We got the best practices to them. We helped draft the bills. We made sure activists were calling the state legislators, getting support, showing up at their public hearings, giving testimony…Little fanfare. Honestly, nobody even noticed. My team looked at each other and we’re like, ‘It can’t be that easy.’” (Elias has also filed suit against the Iowa law.)

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“‘A Perpetual Motion Machine’: How Disinformation Drives Voting Laws”

NYT:

The bills demonstrate how disinformation can take on a life of its own, forming a feedback loop that shapes policy for years to come. When promoted with sufficient intensity, falsehoods — whether about election security or the coronavirus or other topics — can shape voters’ attitudes toward policies, and lawmakers can cite those attitudes as the basis for major changes.

The embrace of the falsehoods also showcases the continuing power of Mr. Trump inside the Republican Party, which has widely adopted and weaponized his election claims. Many Republicans, eager to gain his support, have raced to champion the new voting laws. Those who have stood up to his falsehoods have paid the price. Representative Liz Cheney was ousted from her House leadership post on Wednesday after repudiating what she called the “big lie.”

Lawmakers in at least 33 states have cited low public confidence in election integrity in their public comments as a justification for bills to restrict voting, according to a tally by The New York Times. In several states — including Arizona, Florida, Georgia and Iowa — the bills have already been signed into law, and legislation in Texas is very close to passage.

Voter fraud is extremely rare in the United States, and officials in every state and at the federal level affirmed that the 2020 election was secure.

“It’s like a perpetual motion machine — you create the fear of fraud out of vapors and then cut down on people’s votes because of the fog you’ve created,” said Michael Waldman, the president of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. “Politicians, for partisan purposes, lied to supporters about widespread fraud. The supporters believe the lies, and then that belief creates this rationale for the politicians to say, ‘Well, I know it’s not really true, but look how worried everybody is.’”

Calls to change election laws because of public perceptions are not new: Reports in 20012005 and 2008, for example, warned of the potential repercussions of voter distrust. In 2008, the Supreme Court upheld Indiana’s voter ID law based partly on the argument that it would increase confidence in the state’s elections. And confidence tends to fall at least somewhat after every election among voters in the losing party, according to Charles Stewart III, a director of the Election Data and Science Lab at M.I.T.

But there are some key differences this year, voting rights and disinformation experts say. First, the scale of the legislative efforts — as measured both by the number of bills introduced and the extent of the restrictions they propose — is greater than in past election cycles. Second, the falling confidence in the electoral system is directly traceable to a disinformation campaign. And the drop in confidence among Republicans is far steeper than anything seen in past cycles.

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“Manchin to support measured voting reform in lieu of sweeping Democratic proposal”

ABC:

Sen. Joe Manchin is breaking with Democrats and throwing his weight behind a more measured voting rights bill in lieu of the sweeping Democratic voting reform bill that Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has labeled a top priority of the caucus.

The Democrat from West Virginia told ABC News exclusively that he intends to support the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, a more narrowly tailored piece of voting rights legislation that he said he believes could muster bipartisan support even as voting legislation is becoming a flash point between the two parties.

“I believe Democrats and Republicans feel very strongly about protecting the ballot boxes allowing people to protect the right to vote making it accessible making it fair and making it secure and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, if we apply that to all 50 states and territories, it’s something that can be done — it should be done,” Manchin told ABC News congressional correspondent Rachel Scott. “It could be done bipartisan to start getting confidence back in our system.”…

Manchin said Tuesday’s mark-up made clear to him that the robust Democratic bill, which he has already said he does not support, has no hope of mustering the necessary 60 votes to pass.

“No matter what was brought up it was partisan vote, 9-9,” Manchin said. “This is one of the most — I think — important things that we can do to try to bring our country back together and if we do it in a partisan way, it’s not going to be successful I believe.”…

He’s so committed to working in a bipartisan way that he’s vowed not to use other measures that would allow the Senate to pass the legislation with a simple majority.

For example, Manchin said he won’t support the use of reconciliation, a procedural tool that allows the Senate to bypass the usual 60-vote threshold necessary to pass legislation, to move the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

He also won’t support a one-time change to the Senate filibuster rule, despite pleas from some advocates.

“If you do it for one time you basically destroy the Senate as we know it,” Manchin said.

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“‘Normal tourist visit’: Republicans recast deadly Jan. 6 attack by pro-Trump mob”

WaPo:

Several House Republicans on Wednesday tried to recast and downplay the events of Jan. 6, comparing the mob that breached the Capitol to tourists, railing against law enforcement for seeking to arrest them and questioning how anyone could be sure the rioters were supporters of President Donald Trump.

The Republicans’ distortions about the most violent attack on the Capitol since the War of 1812 defy the well-documented reality of what occurred that day — 140 police officers were injured, some bludgeoned with flagpoles and baseball bats, with one officer’s eye gouged out; rioters chanted “Hang Mike Pence” and erected a gallows on the Capitol grounds; and members of the House and the Senate were rushed to safety in secure locations for several hours. The attack resulted in five dead.

The comments by a handful of House Republicans came during a congressional hearing with former acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen, former acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller and D.C. Police Chief Robert J. Contee III, focused understanding the security lapses that allowed the Jan. 6 attack to happen.

A handful of Republicans used their time to defend the actions of those who stormed past security barricades and broke into the Capitol with the intent of stopping the affirmation of Joe Biden’s election victory. Trump repeatedly and falsely has claimed widespread fraud resulted in a rigged election.

Shortly before the hearing got underway, House Republicans voted to remove Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) from caucus leadership, after she broke with the party in repeatedly denouncing Trump for his false election claims.

Rep. Andrew S. Clyde (R-Ga.) downplayed the events of Jan. 6 as “acts of vandalism” and suggested it was a “boldfaced lie” to call what happened that day an “insurrection.”

“Watching the TV footage of those who entered the Capitol and walked through Statuary Hall showed people in an orderly fashion staying between the stanchions and ropes, taking videos, pictures,” Clyde said. “You know, if you didn’t know the TV footage was a video from January the 6th, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.”

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Georgia: “Jody Hice, in pitch to become secretary of state, spreads election falsehoods”

AJC:

Andrew Clyde isn’t the only Georgia Republican member of Congress testing the limits of fact-checkers this week. (See more about his controversy below.)

His colleague, U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, sent out a three-page letter to Georgia conservatives promoting his challenge to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

He opened with lies that the 2020 election was beset by “systemic voting irregularities and fraud.” He called Raffensperger a “back-stabbing” Republican for refusing Donald Trump’s demand to overturn the results.

And he falsely claimed Raffensperger worked “arm and arm with Stacey Abrams to deliver the presidency and Senate to the radical left.”

“That’s why I’m giving up a safe seat in Congress to run for Georgia Secretary of State,” he wrote, “to stop Democrats before they rig and ruin our democracy forever.”

There was no widespread fraud in Georgia’s election, and the results were upheld in three separate tallies and defended by state and federal elections officials.

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“McCarthy after ousting Cheney: ‘I don’t think anybody is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election'”

Politico:

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Wednesday papered over the significant skepticism of the 2020 presidential election within the GOP just hours after his conference deposed Rep. Liz Cheney for criticizing fellow Republicans over that very issue.

“I don’t think anybody is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election,” McCarthy said after meeting with President Joe Biden at the White House alongside other congressional leaders.

McCarthy’s comments run counter to the the campaign he greenlighted to boot Cheney (R-Wyo.), until today the GOP’s highest-ranking woman, from her role as conference chair. Cheney put herself at odds with former President Donald Trump and his wing of the party after openly admonishing him for repeatedly perpetuating false claims about the 2020 elections and his role in inciting a deadly riot at the Capitol in January.

“We have seen the danger that he continues to provoke with his language,” Cheney told reporters after Wednesday’s closed-door vote. “We have seen his lack of commitment and dedication to the constitution. And I think it’s very important that we make sure whomever we elect is somebody who will be faithful to the constitution.”

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Important E.J. Dionne: “The GOP’s past election lies led to Trump’s big one”

WaPo column:

The situation today reflects the worst tendencies of the pre-Trump era in extreme form. Trump didn’t invent most of what is central to his appeal; he says the ugliest, once-whispered parts out loud. And responsible Republicans who see how dangerous Trumpism is find themselves hamstrung because so many of his claims are already familiar to the party’s base.

Recall, for example, the scandal during the George W. Bush administration over the firing of federal prosecutors who resisted pressure to bring voter-fraud cases.

Their resistance was not surprising since, as Henderson observed, “arguments about voter fraud have no basis in fact” and fraud claims have a long, sorry history, dating to the violent backlash against Black enfranchisement during Reconstruction.

But as the New York Times reported in 2007, the “fraud rallying cry became a clamor in the Florida recount after the 2000 presidential election,” even as Republican lawmakers elsewhere voiced “similar accusations of compromised elections.” Bush’s attorney general announced that voter fraud would be high on his agenda.

The effort “backfired badly,” the Brennan Center for Justice reported. “The Justice Department was upended by scandal because it had pursued a partisan agenda on voting, under the guise of rooting out suspected ‘voter fraud,’ ” the center concluded. “Its actions during the George W. Bush administration were well outside the bounds of rules and accepted norms of neutral law enforcement.”

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California: “Redistricting commission accused of violating open-meetings law and other failures”

LAT:

California voters created an independent redistricting commission to stop lawmakers and powerful interests from drawing gerrymandered congressional and legislative districts that consolidated their power at the expense of fair representation.

That commission is now accused of routinely flouting the law by holding closed-door meetings and other acts that threaten to undermine its impartiality as it prepares to draw new maps.

“The commission’s ‘outreach’ efforts are being conducted in violation of the transparency provisions of” state law, Charles Munger Jr., a major Republican donor who funded the propositions that created the commission, wrote in a May 7 letter to the body. “It is important both that this stop and that it not set a precedent for how the commission conducts itself.”

Among Munger’s concerns: commissioners routinely meeting privately with various parties — including legislative representatives, Google and Common Cause — without public notice, opportunity for public input or a record of the meeting. He also says the commission’s hiring of a law firm that has long represented the state Legislature creates a conflict of interest, and he faults the body for failing to make public records, video and transcripts available in a timely manner.

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“Why a Lifelong Republican Views Arizona’s Recount as Wrong”

NYT:

For several weeks, Republicans in Arizona have conducted an extraordinary audit into the results of November’s presidential election, drawing scrutiny and widespread criticism for examining ballots without any evidence of fraud, and instead relying on conspiracy theories. The audit is expected to continue for weeks, if not months, prodded on by Republicans in the State Legislature, who have perpetuated former President Donald J. Trump’s falsehood that the election was stolen from him.

One of the most outspoken Republican critics of the audit is Bill Gates, who was re-elected as a Maricopa County supervisor in 2020, and along with other supervisors helps oversee the county’s election procedures.

Mr. Gates is a lifelong Republican who once worked as an election lawyer for the party. He considers himself a loyal member of the G.O.P. and points to former President Ronald Reagan as an inspiration for his interest in politics. But he is horrified at the partisan audit taking place in his district, saying that the recounts Arizona already conducted had sufficiently validated the results of the election.

We spoke to Mr. Gates about the recount, the future of the Republican Party and what he, along with millions of others, calls the “big lie.” The interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

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“Trump’s acting attorney general to affirm there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud in 2020”

NYT:

The top Justice Department official at the time of the Jan 6. attack on the Capitol is expected to tell lawmakers on Wednesday that the department saw no evidence to undercut President Biden’s election win, even as Republicans continue to question the results and use those doubts to underpin restrictive voting laws.

The Justice Department “had been presented with no evidence of widespread voter fraud at a scale sufficient to change the outcome of the 2020 election,” Jeffrey A. Rosen, who served as the acting attorney general for the final month of the Trump administration, said in a prepared statement to the House Oversight Committee.

The department chose not to participate in legal challenges to the certification of the Electoral College results based on that assessment, his opening statement said, declining to appoint special prosecutors to look into election fraud or to ask state officials to overturn the results.

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RCV Wins Bipartisan Support in Utah

From Fair Vote:

A record 23 cities in Utah passed ranked choice voting ordinances for elections in 2021, more than doubling the number of elections that will allow voters to rank mayoral candidates. Altogether, with these added cities, 53 jurisdictions are projected to use RCV in upcoming elections. The 23 Utah cities, which includes Salt Lake City (population 200,000), each voted to adopt ranked choice voting specifically for municipal elections in the fall of 2021. Those cities will vote each year to continue using ranked choice voting. 

Coincidentally, I had recently flagged here a piece on why conservatism in Utah is different from that in many other states.

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“Senate Panel Deadlocks on Voting Rights as Bill Faces Major Obstacles”

NYT:

A key Senate committee deadlocked on Tuesday over Democrats’ sweeping proposed elections overhaul, previewing a partisan showdown on the Senate floor in the coming months that could determine the future of voting rights and campaign rules across the country.

The tie vote in the Senate Rules Committee — with nine Democrats in favor and nine Republicans opposed — does not prevent Democrats from moving forward with the 800-page legislation, known as the For the People Act. Proponents hailed the vote as an important step toward adopting far-reaching federal changes to blunt the restrictive new voting laws emerging in Republican-led battleground states like Georgia and Florida.

But the action confronted Democrats with a set of thorny questions about how to push forward on a bill that they view as a civil rights imperative with sweeping implications for democracy and their party. The bill as written faces near-impossible odds in the evenly divided Senate, where Republicans are expected to block it using a filibuster and at least one Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, remains opposed.

With their control in Washington potentially fleeting and Republican states racing ahead with laws to curtail ballot access, Democrats must reach consensus among themselves on the measure, and decide whether to attempt to destroy or significantly alter the Senate’s filibuster rules — which set a 60-vote threshold to overcome any objection to advancing legislation — to salvage its chances of becoming law.

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“Cheney Embraces Her Downfall, Warning G.O.P. of Trump in a Fiery Speech”

NYT:

In the hours before facing a vote that will almost certainly purge her from House Republican leadership, Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming remained unrepentant on Tuesday, framing her expulsion as a turning point for her party and declaring in an extraordinary speech that she would not sit quietly by as Republicans abandoned the rule of law.

Delivering the broadside from the House floor on Tuesday night, Ms. Cheney took a fiery last stand, warning that former President Donald J. Trump had created a threat that the nation had never seen before: a president who had “provoked a violent attack” on his own Capitol “in an effort to steal the election,” and then continued to spread his election lies.

“Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar,” Ms. Cheney said. “I will not participate in that. I will not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president’s crusade to undermine our democracy.”

Her defiant exit — and unmistakable jab at the House Republican leaders working to oust her — illustrates Ms. Cheney’s determination to continue her blunt condemnation of Mr. Trump and her party’s role in spreading the false election claims that inspired the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. On the precipice of the vote to remove her on Wednesday, she has embraced her downfall rather than fight it, offering herself as a cautionary tale in what she is portraying as a battle for the soul of the Republican Party.

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“The Trump G.O.P.’s Plot Against Liz Cheney — and Our Democracy”

Tom Friedman NYT column:

I didn’t want to write again about the House Republicans ousting Liz Cheney from their leadership for calling out Donald Trump’s Big Lie. I was going to make this my week for happy news. But to write about anything else on the verge of Trump’s G.O.P. moving to formally freeze out Cheney would be like writing a column about the weather the day after Watergate exploded or about Ford Theater’s architecture after Lincoln was shot. This is a big moment in American history.

One of America’s two major parties is about to make embracing a huge lie about the integrity of our elections — the core engine of our democracy — a litmus test for leadership in that party, if not future candidacy at the local, state and national levels.

In effect, the Trump G.O.P. has declared that winning the next elections for the House, Senate and presidency is so crucial — and Trump’s ability to energize its base so irreplaceable — that it justifies both accepting his Big Lie about the 2020 election and leveraging that lie to impose new voter-suppression laws and changes in the rules of who can certify elections in order to lock in minority rule for Republicans if need be.

It is hard to accept that this is happening in today’s America, but it is.

If House Republicans follow through on their plan to replace Cheney, it will not constitute the end of American democracy as we’ve known it, but there is a real possibility we’ll look back on May 12, 2021, as the beginning of the end — unless enough principled Republicans can be persuaded to engineer an immediate, radical course correction in their party.

If someone tried a dishonest power play at the P.T.A. of your child’s school like the one in the House, you’d be on the phone in a flash, organizing the other parents to immediately denounce and stop it. If you read about something like this happening in another pillar of democracy, like Britain or France, you’d be sick to your stomach and feel like the world was a little less safe. If you heard that a banana republic dictator had forced such a Big Lie on his sham parliament, you’d want to picket his embassy in Washington.

But this is us — today, right now. And I fear that we’ve so defined down political deviance in the Trump years that we’ve lost the appropriate, drop-everything, Defcon 1, man-the-battle-stations sense of alarm that should greet the G.O.P. crossing such a redline.

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“Over 100 Republicans, including former officials, threaten to split from G.O.P.”

NYT:

More than 100 Republicans, including some former elected officials, are preparing to release a letter this week threatening to form a third party if the Republican Party does not make certain changes, according to an organizer of the effort.

The statement is expected to take aim at former President Donald J. Trump’s stranglehold on Republicans, which signatories to the document have deemed unconscionable.

“When in our democratic republic, forces of conspiracy, division, and despotism arise, it is the patriotic duty of citizens to act collectively in defense of liberty and justice,” reads the preamble to the full statement, which is expected to be released on Thursday.

The effort comes as House Republican leaders are expected on Wednesday to oust Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming from their ranks because of her outspoken criticism of Mr. Trump’s election lies.

“This is a first step,” said Miles Taylor, an organizer of the effort and a former Trump-era Department of Homeland Security official who anonymously wrote a book condemning the Trump administration. In October, Mr. Taylor acknowledged he was the author of both the book and a 2018 New York Times Op-Ed article.

“This is us saying that a group of more than 100 prominent Republicans think that the situation has gotten so dire with the Republican Party that it is now time to seriously consider whether an alternative might be the only option,” he said.

The list of people signing the statement includes former officials at both the state and national level who once were governors, members of Congress, ambassadors, cabinet secretaries, state legislators and Republican Party chairmen, Mr. Taylor said.

Mr. Taylor declined to name the signers. Reuters reported earlier that the former governors Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania and Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey will sign it, as will former Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters and former Representatives Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, Barbara Comstock of Virginia, Reid Ribble of Wisconsin and Mickey Edwards of Oklahoma.

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“Arizona Republicans Enact Sweeping Changes To State’s Early Voting List”

NPR:

Shortly after Arizona Republican lawmakers approved it, GOP Gov. Doug Ducey on Tuesday quickly signed a bill into law that could remove tens of thousands of voters from the state’s early ballot mailing list.

Voters who sign up for the state’s Permanent Early Voting List — PEVL for short — are automatically sent a ballot for every election in which they’re eligible to vote.

The PEVL has grown increasingly popular with each passing election in Arizona. And whether voters actually use their early ballot or not has — to date — been irrelevant.

But Senate Bill 1485, sponsored by Republican Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, takes the “permanent” out of the PEVL.

Her legislation rebrands the PEVL as the “Active” Early Voting List, a name that highlights the main purpose of the measure — to remove voters from the list if they don’t use their early ballot at least once in two straight two-year election cycles, and if they don’t respond to a notice from county officials, warning them of the removal. Voting the old-fashioned way, in person at a polling site, wouldn’t count, either.

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“Inside Arizona’s election audit, GOP fraud fantasies live on”

AP:

On the floor of Veterans Memorial Coliseum, where NBA stars like Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan once dunked basketballs and Hulk Hogan wrestled King Kong Bundy, 46 tables are arrayed in neat rows, each with a Lazy Susan in the middle.

Seated at the tables are several dozen people, mostly Republicans, who spend hours watching ballots spin by, photographing them or inspecting them closely. They are counting them and checking to see if there is any sign they were flown in surreptitiously from South Korea. A few weeks ago they were holding them up to ultraviolet lights, looking for a watermark rumored to be a sign of fraud.

This is Arizona’s extraordinary, partisan audit of the 2020 election results in the state’s most populous county — ground zero for former President Donald Trump and a legion of his supporters who have refused to accept his loss in Arizona or in other battleground states. These ballots have been counted before and certified by the Republican governor. Much of the country has moved on.ADVERTISING

And yet, in this aging arena, Republicans are searching for evidence to support claims they already believe.

The effort has alarmed voting rights advocates, election administrators and civil rights lawyers at the U.S. Department of Justice, who this past week demanded confirmation that federal security and anti-intimidation laws are being followed. Senate President Karen Fann, a Republican, responded Friday by telling the department it had nothing to worry about.

“They lost, and they can’t get over it,” said Grant Woods, a former Republican Arizona attorney general who became a Democrat during Trump’s presidency. “And they don’t want to get over it because they want to continue to sow doubt about the election.”

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“Requiring Majority Winners for Congressional Elections: Harnessing Federalism to Combat Extremism”

New Ned Foley paper that is worth your time:

Congress should enact a law requiring a candidate for a seat in Congress to receive a majority of votes in order to win the election. Congress should let states determine what particular procedure to use to determine whether a candidate wins a majority, as there are significantly different methods of identifying a majority winner. While this simple piece of legislation might seem inconsequential—many Americans assume, erroneously, that elections already require majority winners—it in fact would cause states to undertake a form of experimentation in the details of electoral system design that would have the effect of counteracting the threat that anti-democracy extremism currently poses in America.

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“The For the People Act’s Missing Piece”

I wrote this column for Democracy Docket about a provision I think should be part of any electoral reform legislation: an “Anderson-Burdick fix,” enacted under Congress’s Elections Clause authority, that instructs courts to apply heightened scrutiny to voting restrictions. In recent years, the existing Anderson-Burdick doctrine has become increasingly unfavorable to plaintiffs. Congress should change that unsatisfactory regime and so guard against whatever new measures would-be vote suppressors manage to think up.

But the For the People Act wouldn’t invalidate all of Georgia’s new restrictions. It wouldn’t reach the ban on mobile voting centers. Nor would it reverse the criminalization of helping hungry or thirsty voters. Left standing, too, would be the legislature’s takeover of the elections board. The reason for these omissions is the Act’s underlying strategy. It specifies many steps that states must take to make voting easier, and it outlaws many policies that hinder voting. But it doesn’t include any catch-all provision applicable to all voting limits—including ones Congress hasn’t yet imagined. The Act thus leaves open the door to novel barriers erected by wily vote suppressors. 

How could the Act slam this door shut? The most promising proposal is an amendment drafted by Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-NY). Under this amendment, any regulation that imposes a “severe or discriminatory burden” on voting in federal elections would be unlawful unless a jurisdiction could prove that the rule is the least restrictive way to further a compelling state interest. (Lawyers call this strict scrutiny.) Any regulation that imposes a milder voting burden would also be invalid unless it significantly furthers an important state interest. (This is intermediate scrutiny in legalese.) 

Rep. Jones’s amendment would eliminate the For the People Act’s blind spot with respect to new kinds of voting restrictions. Take the elements of Georgia’s law that would be unaffected by the Act as it currently stands. Rep. Jones’s amendment would reach those policies. All of them burden voting to some degree—potentially to an extreme degree if Georgia’s legislature uses its new powers to discard lawfully cast ballots. So the policies would be upheld only if Georgia could convince a court that they’re sufficiently linked to a vital enough interest. . . .

Is it constitutional, though, for Congress to require heightened judicial scrutiny for all burdensome regulations of federal elections? Without a doubt. The Elections Clause grants Congress essentially plenary power over the “Manner of [congressional] elections.” Even the Roberts Court—no friend of expansive congressional authority—has conceded that, under the Clause, Congress could “provide a complete code for congressional elections.” It’s also unremarkable for Congress to use the Clause to create new bases for lawsuits. Earlier electoral statutes in the 1990s and 2000s did exactly that. . . .

[D]issatisfaction with the constitutional rule is certainly a driver of Rep. Jones’s amendment. In the runup to the 2020 election, the Roberts Court upheld one voting restriction after another. Over its entire history, the Roberts Court has never ruled in favor of a plaintiff alleging an undue burden on her right to vote. Rep. Jones’s amendment is necessary, then, because today’s courts all too often fail to protect the franchise. Their dismal record is the impetus for congressional intervention.

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“Opinion: Close this FEC loophole that killed the case over Trump’s payment to Stormy Daniels”

FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub’s WaPo oped:

But when the FEC’s professional legal staff recommended the commission investigate, two Republican commissioners instead tanked the case without a word about its merits. Since Cohen had already been prosecuted, they said, “pursuing these matters further was not the best use of agency resources.”

Now, we’re pretty busy at the FEC, digging out from all the matters that piled up for more than a year while we were short on commissioners — and therefore unable to decide cases.

But are we too busy to enforce the law against the former president of the United States for his brazen violation of federal campaign finance laws on the eve of a presidential election? No.

Would pursuing this matter have been an unwise use of resources? Of course not. Taxpayers entrust us with resources exactly so that we can pursue enforcement in important cases and ensure that no one is above the law. This dismissal of the allegations against Trump is arbitrary, capricious, outrageous and contrary to the law that Congress created the FEC to enforce.

It gets worse. The Republican commissioners’ grossly inadequate justification for dismissal is effectively insulated from review because of the last 13 words of their statement: “We voted to dismiss these matters as an exercise of our prosecutorial discretion.” The courts have turned “prosecutorial discretion” into magic words that render any administrative decision invulnerable to appeal.

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“In Arizona, a Troubled Voting Review Plods On as Questions Mount”

NYT:

Directly outside the Veterans Memorial Coliseum near downtown Phoenix, the Crazy Times Carnival wraps up an 11-day run on Sunday, a spectacle of thrill rides, games and food stands that headlines the Arizona State Fair this year.

Inside the coliseum, a Republican-ordered exhumation and review of 2.1 million votes in the state’s November election is heading into its third week, an exercise that has risen to become the lodestar of rigged-vote theorists — and shows no sign of ending soon.

Arizona’s Secretary of State Katie Hobbs noted the carnival’s presence outside the coliseum when she challenged the competence and objectivity of the review last week, expressing concern about the security of the ballots inside in an apparent dig at what has become a spectacle of a very different sort.

There is no evidence that former President Donald J. Trump’s narrow loss in Arizona’s presidential election in the fall was fraudulent. Nonetheless, 16 Republicans in the State Senate voted to subpoena ballots in Maricopa County, home to Phoenix and two-thirds of the state’s vote in November, for an audit to show Trump die-hards that their fraud concerns were taken seriously.

As recently as a week ago, officials said the review would be completed by May 14. But with that deadline a week away, only about 250,000 of the county’s 2.1 million ballots have been processed in the hand recount that is a central part of the review, Ken Bennett, a liaison between those conducting the review and the senators, said on Saturday.

At that rate, the hand recount would not be finished until August.

The delay is but the latest snag in an exercise that many critics claim is wrecking voters’ confidence in elections, not restoring it. Since the State Senate first ordered it in December, the review has been dogged by controversy. Republicans dominate the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, which supervised the election in the county. They said it was fair and accurate and opposed the review….

After a week marked by mounting accusations of partisan skulduggery, mismanagement and even potential illegality, at least one Republican supporter of the new count said it could not end soon enough.

“It makes us look like idiots,” State Senator Paul Boyer, a Republican from suburban Phoenix who supported the audit, said on Friday. “Looking back, I didn’t think it would be this ridiculous. It’s embarrassing to be a state senator at this point.”

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“The making of a myth”

WaPo deep dive:

Key elements of the baseless claim that the 2020 election was stolen from President Donald Trump took shape in an airplane hangar here two years earlier, promoted by a Republican businessman who has sold everything from Tex-Mex food in London to a wellness technology that beams light into the human bloodstream.

At meetings beginning late in 2018, as Republicans were smarting from midterm losses in Texas and across the country, Russell J. Ramsland Jr. and his associates delivered alarming presentations on electronic voting to a procession of conservative lawmakers, activists and donors.

Briefings in the hangar had a clandestine air. Guests were asked to leave their cellphones outside before assembling in a windowless room. A member of Ramsland’s team purporting to be a “white-hat hacker” identified himself only by a code name…

The enduring myth that the 2020 election was rigged was not one claim by one person. It was many claims stacked one atop the other, repeated by a phalanx of Trump allies. This is the previously unreported origin story of a core set of those claims, ideas that were advanced not by renowned experts or by insiders who had knowledge of flawed voting systems but by Ramsland and fellow conservative activists as they pushed a fledgling company, Allied Security Operations Group, into a quixotic attempt to find evidence of widespread fraud where none existed.

To assemble a picture of the company’s role, The Washington Post obtained emails and company documents and interviewed 12people with direct knowledge of ASOG’s efforts, as well as former federal officials and aides from the Trump White House. Many spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private matters or out of fear of retribution. Three individuals who were present in the hangar for those 2018 meetings spoke about the gatherings publicly for the first time.

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“GOP’s Voting Curbs Show Long Reach of 2013 Supreme Court Ruling”

Bloomberg:

Republicans across the U.S. can thank the Supreme Court and Chief Justice John Roberts as they enact the country’s most significant voting restrictions in generations.

The court’s watershed 2013 Shelby County ruling created a glide path for many of election changes GOP-controlled legislatures are pushing this year. The Roberts-written decision wiped out the 1965 Voting Rights Act’s requirement that jurisdictions with a deep history of discrimination get federal preclearance before changing their voting rules.

Texas is poised to join Georgia as a GOP-controlled state using its newfound freedom from that requirement to enact measures that critics say suppress voting by racial minorities. Other states that weren’t subject to preclearance, including Florida, are also passing restrictions, creating a cascade of new voting laws that could boost Republicans in the 2022 and 2024 elections.

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Bad Ballot Design in London Mayor’s Race Leads 1 out of 30 Votes Cast to be Rejected

For this race, Londoners used an RCV system, in which they were permitted to rank their first and second choices. But a terrible, confusing ballot design led a significant number of voters to cast a first choice for two different candidates — resulting in their ballots being tossed out. This is a problem of ballot design, not inherent to RCV. But I would not be surprised to see this debacle being used in arguments against RCV. Here’s the ballot:

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“After Facing Numerous Recall Attempts, Democratic Lawmakers Want To Change Rules”

This story is out of Colorado, from the CPR News. Proponents assert that there are good government reasons for these changes. But the story notes that the vote in committee to report out this bill was on a straight party-line basis.

As voters have installed Democrats in the state’s top offices, conservative activists have increasingly turned to recalls to reverse the blue tide.

Gov. Jared Polis has been the target of two recall efforts, although neither turned in enough signatures to force an election. Groups also circulated recall petitions against two state senators in 2019, and they threatened to try to recall two representatives, too. Those efforts also fell short of the needed signatures. 

Now, as part of a larger election law “clean up” bill, lawmakers could change some of the rules for future recalls.

If the bill becomes law, recall petitions would be required to include an estimated cost of conducting a special election, as well as a statement from the official being targeted for recall, if they provide one.

“This is a big, disruptive force in our democratic process. I think it’s important that voters have, maybe not the full picture, but at least a sentence from both sides,” said Sen. Majority Leader Steve Fenburg, one of the bill’s sponsors. “It’s really just to make sure the information is out there, in that these recall efforts are being used for legitimate purposes and not for purely routine political attacks.”

The bill also bans recall efforts against an official whose office will be up for election within six months.

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Why Puerto Rican House Members Are Divided Over Puerto Rican Statehood

Given the intense politics within Puerto Rico over statehood v. commonwealth status, it is rare to find journalistic stories that capture well the positions in this debate. This long essay from Ben Jacobs at the DC Examiner is one of the best efforts to do so I’ve read recently. A strength of the piece is the way it links the political dynamics within Puerto Rico to the surprising politics within the mainland political parties, particularly the Democratic Party.

Here’s a couple small excerpts, but those interested in the issue should read the full piece;

So, what’s the holdup? Some of the most ardent opposition to Puerto Rican statehood comes from the Left.

It may seem counterintuitive, but the debate over Puerto Rico’s status has become a primarily intra-Democratic fight, one that doesn’t fall along neat ideological lines and divides the four Democrats of Puerto Rican heritage within the caucus. Darren Soto of Florida and Ritchie Torres of New York support it, while Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Nydia Velazquez, both of New York, oppose the proposals….

Instead, the battlefield shifted to two competing bills on Capitol Hill. The first would grant Puerto Rico statehood after one final, binding referendum, along the same model through which Alaska and Hawaii were admitted to the union in the 1950s. The second is more amorphous. It is entitled the Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act and would create a “semi-permanent” status convention to which Puerto Ricans would elect delegates in order to negotiate with a congressional commission on the island’s future. The results would be subject to a ranked-choice referendum in which every option except the status quo would be on the ballot and would purportedly bind Congress to the result….

However, opponents of the statehood bill see the vote as illegitimate, a ploy by statehood supporters that did not offer the full range of options to vote. In an April hearing on the topic held by the House Committee on Natural Resources, Velazquez argued, “This should be about a process that respects the will of the people, not try to stack the deck or use millions of dollars to skew the outcome.”…

A convention process, in contrast, would allow a broad, free-ranging discussion about a variety of status options ranging from statehood to independence. “Self-determination in Puerto Rico shouldn’t come down to a simple ballot referendum,” tweeted Ocasio-Cortez on May 5, calling it “a process that states use to resolve questions like dog racing or cannabis & are easily challenged. Determination of status, citizenship, and decolonization merit a constitutional convention.” The problem is that there really are not a lot of options available.

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“Republicans continue their nationwide campaign to restrict voting”

Fredreka Schouten for CNN:

Republicans in key states intensified their push to roll back access to the ballot this week — with the GOP-led Texas House passing new voting limits Friday, a day after Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law an array of new restrictions in his state.

Republicans in the Texas House pushed past objections from corporate giants such as American Airlines and Microsoft, and fierce protests from Democratic lawmakers and voting rights advocates.The vote came after an often-heated debate on the floor of the Texas House with Democratic lawmakers pressing the bill’s author, GOP Rep. Briscoe Cain, to cite examples of the election fraud the bill sought to prevent.”We don’t need to wait for bad things to happen” to take action, Cain responded at one point/

The vote moves Texas closer to joining a host of other states racing to change the ground rules for future elections, following former President Donald Trump’s repeated and unfounded claims that voter fraud contributed to his loss last November. Around the country, Republicans have cast their effort as needed to restore voter confidence in the integrity of elections. But critics say the nationwide push aims to retain GOP power in key battlegrounds by making it harder for people of color and younger voters to cast their ballots.

There is no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election.

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“Texas GOP’s voting restrictions bill could be rewritten behind closed doors after key House vote”

Alexa Ura for Texas Tribune:

As opposition to Texas Republicans’ proposed voting restrictions continues to intensify, state lawmakers’ deliberations over the GOP priority legislation could soon go behind closed doors.

The House early Friday voted 81-64 to advance a pared down version of Senate Bill 7, leaving out various far-reaching voting restrictions that have prompted widespread outcry from voting rights advocates, advocates for people with disabilities, and local officials in the state’s biggest counties. The legislation still contains some provisions opposed by those groups — including a prohibition on counties sending unsolicited applications to vote by mail.

Facing more than 130 proposed amendments from Democrats late Thursday — and a procedural challenge that could have delayed the entire bill’s consideration — lawmakers huddled off the chamber’s floor throughout the night to cut a deal and rework SB 7 through a flurry of amendments passed without objection from either party.

But the final contours of the bill remain uncertain.

The bill will need a second House vote, expected later Friday, before it can head back to the Senate. It will then likely go to a conference committee made up of members of both chambers who will be able to pull from both iterations of the legislation in crafting the final version largely outside public view.

SB 7 has emerged as the main legislative vehicle for changing the state’s voting rules, though the versions passed in each chamber differ significantly.

As passed in the Senate, the legislation restricted early voting rules and schedules to do away with extended hours and ban drive-thru voting. It also required large counties to redistribute polling places under a formula that could move sites away from areas with more Hispanic and Black residents.

Those and other provisions fell off when it was reconstituted in the House Elections Committee, with little notice and without a public hearing, to match the House’s priorities contained in House Bill 6.

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Sounds Like Joe Manchin, in Negotiating on Voting Rights Bill, Wants Preclearance Expanded to All 50 States

Interesting report:

A former two-term governor of West Virginia and a former secretary of state, the chief elections officer in West Virginia, Manchin said he sees the need for some changes. However, he also believes the authority for managing elections needs to remain at the state and local level.

Manchin said any election reform effort needs to focus on three key areas.

“The main thing is, being a former governor and a former secretary of state, we should have accessibility at the polling place, you should have fairness in the voting process, and it should be secured,” Manchin said. “Those three things have to be done.”

One part of For the People Manchin likes is the restoration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Voting Rights Act was gutted in 2013 in a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Manchin and others have tried to restore the Voting Rights Act through the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, named for the late civil rights leader and Georgia congressman John Lewis. The most recent version of the bill passed the House in 2019, but the Senate version of the bill died in committee in 2020.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Act would restore the original Voting Rights Act to ensure any changes to state election laws do not violate the civil rights of minorities and people of color. Many states have started making changes to voting laws in the wake of the November 2020 elections, believing without evidence that the election was stolen from former president Donald Trump. Election rights advocated believe those changes could make it more difficult for people to register and vote.

“We already have the John L. Lewis (Voting Rights Act),” Manchin said. “We should basically expand the John L. Lewis Voting Act to all 50 states, not just to those that we designate, and protect the voters. Those are the main things that we should be doing.”

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“Florida and Texas Join the March as Republicans Press Voting Limits”

NYT:

Hours after Florida installed a rash of new voting restrictions, the Republican-led Legislature in Texas pressed ahead on Thursday with its own far-reaching bill that would make it one of the most difficult states in the nation in which to cast a ballot.

The Texas bill would, among other restrictions, greatly empower partisan poll watchers, prohibit election officials from mailing out absentee ballot applications and impose strict punishments for those who provide assistance outside the lines of what is permissible.

After a lengthy debate that lasted into the early morning hours on Friday, the State House of Representatives passed the measure in a 81-64 vote, largely along party lines, at about 3 a.m., following a flurry of amendments that had been spurred by Democratic protests and a Democratic procedural move known as a point of order.

The new amendments softened some of the initial new penalties proposed for those who run afoul of the rules and added that the police could be called to remove unruly partisan poll watchers. Other amendments added by Democrats sought to expand ballot access, including with changes to ballot layout and with voter registration at high schools. But those amendments could be knocked off by a potential conference committee.

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“GOP eyes voter fraud conspiracy theorist to replace Liz Cheney”

WaPo:

Republicans have offered a pretty curious rationale for excommunicating Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) from her No. 3 leadership role. Amid her continued criticisms of former president Donald Trump, they’ve argued not that her claims are wrong (because they aren’t), but rather that her commentary is unhelpful to the party’s efforts to win back the majority and that they’d rather focus on the future. To perhaps oversimplify things a bit: They’d just rather not talk about it.

The argument is particularly strange given how much the man they assure remains their party’s leader — Trump — is very much fixated on the past, still spouting election conspiracy theories six months after he lost.

But it’s also strange given that the emerging choice to replace Cheney offered some of the same conspiratorial claims. That will only reinforce how much Trump’s “big lie” has infected his party.

The Washington Post’s Paul Kane on Wednesday profiled Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), who appears to be the prohibitive favorite to succeed Cheney. Stefanik’s story is one of the most significant metamorphoses of the Trump era. At just 36, she was a former GOP aide and entered Congress as an acolyte of former House speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), but has since become a Trumpian firebrand.

That includes spouting his baseless and false fraud claims in the lead-up to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. She did so significantly more than many in her party and certainly more than the leaders whose ranks she could soon join. (They would often merely cite states allegedly not following their election laws, rather than massive fraud.)

Stefanik’s most extreme claim came in a statement published shortly before the Capitol riot, in which she explained why she would object to counting certain state’s electors.

She cited the same things as other prominent Republicans about state election laws supposedly not being followed. But she also made a particularly remarkable claim about Georgia: that “more than 140,000 votes came from underage, deceased, and otherwise unauthorized voters — in Fulton County alone.”

There is zero evidence for this. As CNN’s Daniel Dale notes, similar claims were fact-checked and debunked in the previous weeks. What’s more, there were only about 524,000 total voters in Atlanta-based Fulton County in the 2020 election. Stefanik was therefore claiming more than 1 in 4 votes in a single county were fraudulent — a ridiculous number given that Fulton County’s relative turnout was in line with history. It’s even more ridiculous given that all the court cases and months of review have produced no evidence of anything like it.

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“Inside Mitch McConnell’s personal push to defeat Democrats’ voting reforms”

McClatchy:

Every week, a group of nearly 100 conservative leaders convene for a 30-minute strategy call on a single issue: How to combat Democrats’ sweeping legislation to change the way federal elections are conducted.

Two weeks ago, the keynote briefer was Sen. Mitch McConnell, who made it crystal clear that defeating the “For the People Act” is his top priority of this two-year legislative session.

McConnell has conveyed his vehement opposition to the bill repeatedly in public. What’s different, conservatives say, is his personal level of commitment behind-the-scenes to educate activists on just how damaging the legislation would be to the future electoral prospects of Republicans. To those involved, they’ve noticed a level of engagement from the GOP leader they haven’t seen before.

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